Mr. Madison's War

edited April 2016 in Board Game Reviews
Wargame designer Mark Herman invented the card driven wargame with his monumental design called We the People back in the 90's. This was a departure from most historical boardgames. While it still used cardboard pieces, the map board did away with the hexagon and instead used a point to point system to regulate movement. Instead of a system where players could move all their units around, a system with cards was introduced that allowed not only for the activation and movement of units, but also political events as well.

The game was very well received and soon other games were designed and published on various historical topics. Other popular and famous games based on this system were Paths of Glory (World War I), Twilight Struggle (the Cold War), Labyrinth (the war on terror), Shifting Sands (North Africa) and many others.

GMT Games is the publisher that seems to have published the greatest number of these card driven games. One of the more recent titles that GMT published in this genre is one called Mr. Madison's War. This is a two player card driven strategic game on the War of 1812. The map board features the area from Detroit to Quebec from Mackinac to Albany. The game is divided into only 9 turns, 3 per year in 1812, 1813 and 1814. Two of these turns are regular turns in which action takes place and one winter turn where limited action occurs. Unlike other games in the genre, there are three separate decks of cards, one per game year. This allows the action to follow a historical thread while not limiting events to an exact sequence. The game is relatively simple to play but the strategy is rather deep. There are a great number of things for players to do, but there are very limited resources to make these happen.

This one recently came up at wargame night. Playing the 1813 scenario, we got into the game easily and without too many questions that required the rules to answer. The game was very engaging and fun to play. It contains a great deal of historical flavor and the cards contain a great deal of information about the events and personalities of the war. I found myself learning a lot about the war as I played. This is a fine game and one that deserves additional time on the table. I would rate this at least a 7 out of 10 with a higher rating possible. Mr. Madison's War nicely captures the essence of that conflict in an easy to learn way.
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